A total of 309 lives have been lost in China's six worst coal mining disasters so far this year -- a quarter more than during the same period last year.
This year's rise in fatalities from major accidents came as the total death toll from all accidents hit 4,150 for the first eight months of 2003.
Of the worst disasters, over 30 people died in one accident.
Zhao Tiechui, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety, the country's top watchdog on production safety, said systems to safeguard workers in coal mines are facing management problems.
Despite many workplace campaigns in recent years, there is still much to be done to make coal mining in China safer, Zhao said yesterday during a teleconference on the subject.
From January 1 to September 17 this year, the number of "serious" coal mine accidents and deaths they caused increased by 50 percent and 25 percent respectively over the same period last year, said Zhao.
Serious accidents have also begun to occur in some big state-owned coal mines which had been listed as examples of safe workplaces.
Small, unlicensed coal mines are still the biggest headache and the key to preventing more accidents and death, Zhao noted.
The numbers of accidents and deaths caused by small coal mines have accounted for more than 70 percent of the total nationwide this year, Zhao added.
In the first eight months of this year, 2,452 coal mine accidents causing 4,150 deaths were reported in China -- figures similar to those over the same period last year.
(China Daily September 19, 2003)